A TASTE OF THE PAST
rowing up there were no multinational fast food joints with staff in shower caps, plastic gloves and synthetic aprons selling food on sanitised trays. Only family-run shacks or street carts peddling stuff that was made right in front of you in conditions that were basic, to say the least. You either stood right there on the roadside and ate off a plate made of dry leaves, or got a takeaway in pieces of old newspaper. Hygiene was never a consideration. Taste and personality were.
Whether it was the portly sweet maker who squatted close to a charred giant wok, squirting squiggles of jalebi over boiling hot oil that was as black as the wok itself, or the elderly lady who sold chilled lemonade from a chipped, dusty clay pot, they were the Michelin stars of our childhood; people who had us eating out of their hands with their big smiles and equally generous portions, their spellbinding deftness,
Be it the portly sweet maker who squatted close to the WOK, squirting squiggles of JALEBI over hot oil, or the elderly lady who sold lemonade from a dusty clay pot, they were the MICHELIN stars of our childhood
and their ability to always deliver taste that nobody else could match.
Nostalgia, as a chef in the feature ‘A Taste of India’ on page 32 says, is tough to recreate on a plate. And I agree. While sitting in an exquisitely designed restaurant, elegantly running my knife through a succulent piece of chicken tikka that was served with a quenelle of spiced foam with spots and strokes of three different relishes and salads, I too found myself making a quick trip down memory lane to a hovel of a place from my past. The owner was the butcher, chef and businessman all rolled in one. Crude in appearance but a master of his trade. In short, an iconic kebab maker, in my book.
And was the chicken tikka on the tines of my fork anywhere close to the taste of what I consider best?
I refuse to compare. Nostalgia might be delicious but it leaves me hungry. Until next week,